Author Archives: mrobjectivist

De-seeding Confirmed

Yet another keynote, yet another product launch, yet another iPhone and yet nothing new. Just more of the same. So during the launch of iPhone 7, it was all about the specifications i.e. how it is ‘x’ times better than iPhone 6 in all aspects or to paraphrase all and sundry on the stage ‘how it is the best ever iPhone’. This time around the added version of iPhone 7 i.e. iPhone 8, was quickly introduced and packed off and then the coup de grace iPhone X was unveiled. The unveiling was with it’s customary flair, the proverbial mystery launching and the audiences ‘ooohs’ and ‘aaahs’ and yet it just the same. As yet again it was something that was just a strict step-up improvement and definitely not even remotely close to the term – innovation.
If one were to time the entire presentation on the aspects of iPhone X that was spoken about, or the features of the iPhone X that were highlighted – a whopping 75% of time must have been spent on only 2 features i.e. the Face ID and hold your breath – Animoji. The rest 25% would have been on the usual suspects – ‘x’ times better camera, ‘x’ times better battery life, ‘x’ times better processing power, ’x’ times better screen display and so on and so forth. Agree that the Face ID is different and worth mentioning but hell one can’t base it’s entire product unveiling presentation on that very aspect and pray tell, why should one even talk about something so elementary as emojis, no matter in what form, format or manner they are, emojis – seriously!!
And boy, does Apple charge a bomb for iPhone X. It might be the ‘best ever iPhone’, (doesn’t matter it chooses to compete only among itself) and doesn’t claim to be the ‘best ever smartphone’ but it definitely has staked a claim to be the ‘most expensive ever smartphone’.
It is obvious, that the Apple stable really seems bare. Nothing innovative, path-breaking or even remotely eye-grabbing products in the work. Does it behove of a company that prides itself on being on the cutting edge of innovation to just re-hash and re-jig something and present it as the ‘best ever…’? Shouldn’t these annual affairs cease to exist if the product doesn’t exactly ring the innovation bell? Shouldn’t Apple set it’s bar so high that if and when they do launch and introduce a product it would be disrupting the existing product lines and thus necessarily innovative? Otherwise, what all these launches are doing is just to keep the obvious army of fanboy and fangirls happy that they can wrap their hands and heads around a new Apple product, keep the cash registers ringing and ensure that the quarter on quarter number looks promising.
Perhaps, the smartphone has reached it’s evolution life-cycle and there is nothing much one can change but just re-gild or re-hash? Perhaps, there is a need for a completely disruptive idea to break the smartphone industry per se, re-look at the use case of a smartphone and come out with a completely different product. And perhaps, we could have just about seen the glimpse of it in one such earlier product launch in the entire keynote, which was introduced as a footnote – a cellular Apple watch. Maybe and just maybe, a smart watch with cellular capabilities is the answer to the glass ceiling one has hit on the smart phone product.
It is about time that the company takes it’s cue from the short speech of Steve Jobs that was played before the start of the keynote on 12th September – ‘to stay true to oneself’. Otherwise, as were the numerous conglomerates who were too big, smug and moneyed to heed a upstart start-up, Apple might just about find itself being at the wrong end facing similar such upstarts and as the proverbial David vs Goliath fight goes, end up on the losing side.
Over to you, Apple!

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Circa 2019?

It is already May 2017 and exactly 3 years in to the new regime. Another 2 years to go when the country will be ready again to witness the ritual of selecting the Government at the centre. Whether BJP and Modi was able to fulfil the promises that they had made to the larger public or whether it was just a seasoned politician canvassing or perhaps was it bluster of an extremely confident and knowledgable man, it is a point that was being, is being and will be debated. Another important aspect that will come up for discussion in the various debates in numerous channels will be – Will he get the mandate in 2019? It is anybody’s call but there is something that has a good chance of happening, which is well within the Government’s purview if not the outcome of the elections i.e. when the elections are called. There is a good chance that it will not be a 2019 mandate but more of a May-August 2018 mandate. In all probability, BJP might look to advance the elections by a good 9-12 months. Why would BJP do such a thing? Why advance the elections by a good year or so? More so, when there has been a recent example of what happened to Theresa May and her party’s poor performance at the hustings?
First and foremost, the polity in India is such that whenever the incumbent is looking to get re-elected, it necessarily tends to fall in the abyss of appeasement. It is a foregone conclusion that the Government in power is expected to bring out doles in the form of tax sops, subsidies, loan waivers, favourable policies etc in order to woo the larger public. In effect, the Government in power gets transformed to lame duck, by default, for the last year, running up towards the elections. Knowing Modi and his aversion for benefit-spraying he will look to pre-empt this idea of being a lame duck. Modi comes across a person who doesn’t believe in being passive with issues and looks to take problems head on. Additionally, it just doesn’t suit the personality of a no-nonsense strong leadership to recede being in a lame-duck environment. Thus, by advancing the elections by a good year and by springing a surprise on everybody, he and others in the Government will be able to do their job.
There is another upshot of this idea. It is a clear as daylight that the opposition doesn’t stand a chance in the General Elections, if they fight separately. If the opposition were to fight under separate banners, it is without doubt BJP’s elections to lose. But, if the opposition were to unite under a single banner, then there is a good chance they might put up a stiff resistance to the BJP juggernaut never mind the thought of who will head the Government, if at all and when they are likely to get a majority. This ‘bringing together’ of the opposition would require a lot of prep-work, as there are some very many egotistical, fief-holders in the fray, who just cannot stand each other i.e. Congress can’t stand AAP, BSP and SP can’t see eye to eye and Trinamool and CPI will necessarily look to be on the opposite sides of the political spectrum. Thus, to bring such diverse and diametrically opposite personalities together will require a fair bit of time. A lot of time would be required perhaps to firm up the PM candidate – Will Rahul Gandhi fit the bill? If somebody else gets more seats then will Congress have the upper hand? So on and so forth. Alternatively, it works in BJP’s favour if the opposition remains opposed to each other. The opposition fights against each other, the votes get divided and BJP candidate goes through. By advancing the elections, BJP would again pre-empt this possibility. When the opposition is still sussing each other out – perhaps a year earlier to May 2019 – to form coalitions, BJP might just drop the General Elections bomb. The kind of personalities, acrimony and issues that the opposition has within itself would be difficult to overcome in a short span of time.
Lastly but definitely not the least of the reasons is that whenever a Government is looking to get re-elected, it tends to get on the defensive. So, if an incumbent is looking to get re-elected close to the re-election date i.e. May 2019, the narrative that the opposition tends to arrange is that of – What has the government done? Has the common man’s life improved? Are the citizens better of? Consequently, the narrative from the incumbent is in the defensive tone i.e. looking to answer most of the questions that are put through. But if an elected incumbent is looking to advance the election, it somehow is able to set a narrative around which the election can be fought. An assertive narrative of accomplishments, issues management, non-corruption etc can be arranged which then the opposition will have to counter. It is clearly pre-empting and turning the tables, so to speak in the narrative that gets out to the common man. It also tends to put the incumbent or perhaps creates a perception of the incumbent on a sure footing. A view that the incumbent can express is that why would they advance if they were so afraid to lose the elections. The act would also burnish the leadership qualities of Modi as an assured and a confident leader.
So perhaps, instead of a Circa 2019, it would well be a 2018 General Elections year.

Trump-ed

Against all odds, Donald Trump pipped Hillary Clinton at the hustings. It was a case where Clinton’s victory was a supposed foregone conclusion. There was a heady concoction of ingredients – vocal supporters, pliant media, complete Democratic party support, tacit GOP dislike for its candidate and to top it all a near about offensive opponent. It was a bolt from the blue on the final day when all hell broke loose. Perhaps the American people are still yet to come to terms to the fact that Donald Trump is going to be next POTUS.

There are various implications that come along with the ascent of Donald Trump as arguably the most powerful man on the planet. Let us look at a few:

Implication 1: Un-holy-ing Cows

When the elections were being held, I had a discussion with a friend of mine. He commented that the US administration is a well-oiled machine and relies very little on the head of the state. However disruptive the head might be the constituents will ensure that it would be business as usual in the system – be it foreign affairs, economy, homeland security or what have you. Near about most aspects are clearly enumerated by the respective parties and toeing the party line is the only option available. So one would expect a GOP President to be capitalist in nature with little left-of-centre behaviour and the Democrat would be the exact opposite.

Yet, Donald Trump is going to be different. Even before he has taken the oath he has shown that there are absolutely no holy cows for him. There was a certain promise with which he was elected for the top job and that itself will be weighing on him. Thus issues that have been in the  deep cold freezer and done and dusted are going to be brought to the fore – recognising Taiwan (even perhaps to use it as a counter-weight to China’s currency manipulating ways), undermining the relationship with NATO, re-configuring the interest with Russia, so on and so forth. President-elect, when he drops the suffix is going to come out all guns blazing and we are going to see altogether different combinations emerge. There is a goodish chance of seeing a US-Russia-UK axis emerge creating a strong counterweight to EU.

Implication 2: Politicising Incorrect-ness

Going forward, do expect the political correctness to go straight out of the window. There was a certain way a consummate political lifer used to behave. Not this man. He will behave the way he deems fit – bullying individual companies in to toeing his line, keeping the pliant media at arm’s length, communicating directly to the larger public through different avenues like Facebook or Twitter, building a wall (physically and mentally) for all non Americans or even announcing important policy decisions on Twitter. It is the end of perhaps the holier than thou perception that the President had and in a way Donald Trump might be democratising the position by bringing it closer to the common man. The common man read blue collared, under-educated, working class white American who was left scratching his or her head at the political gobbledegook being dished out every day. Eventually, the next POTUS, intentionally or unwittingly going to present the political going-ons in a very simple laymen terms for everybody to understand

Implication 3: Action Stations

It appears that the years of managing and being at the help of his business has made Donald Trump a person who has a bias for action. Thus, there is a goodish chance that the President-elect is going to be a man of action. There would rarely be an instance where in he would let the situation drift much to the chagrin of everybody involved. It wouldn’t much matter whether the action taken is on sound judgement or thought through, the crux of the matter would be that no situation would be unnecessarily fester or drift about. In all likelihood, there is little chance of empty rhetoric.

Implication 4: Individual vs Collective

Every decision henceforth from the POTUS’s office will have the imprimatur of the man. He will have ears for everybody but the final decision on any given situation would be his. Perhaps, he feels that he has more objectivity and smartness than anybody else and perhaps he is able to see any given situation in a different light. Nevertheless, every decision made would be only his to make. Thus, being pally with Russia and UK, a virtual break-up of the cosy club of NATO, riling up China, breaking up the multi-lateral agreements and cozying up to bilateral and many more such decisions would be entirely his call and perhaps aided by a close clique that he has. Thus, the idea of governing by consensus and taking everybody along would be a completely still-born thought under his watch.

Implication 5: Anti-Global Nationalistic Tendencies

POTUS is going to repeal whatever he deems to be unfair to the common American. It could be an agreement that was signed years earlier or a silent tacit understanding that affects the US or even an extolled virtue of being the torch-bearer on climate change. There is a good chance that US would go back on its commitments on the reducing the carbon footprints(thermal based power plants and the attendant coal mining industry being a big jobs creator, coal mining has been steadily decreasing in US over the years from 2008). Any earlier decision that he feels affects the country’s present is up for scrutiny – thus turning US inwards and nationalistic in nature. This would affect the immigration policies, work visas, multi-lateral trade agreements, border and homeland security enforcements and the decision-making at various private US companies.

Also, there is an attendant upshot of this idea, though not exactly affecting the US directly but definitely affecting the world indirectly. 2017 is a year of elections in EU. Germany, Spain and France are looking to elect new national governments. The nationalist leaning ultra-right anti-globalisation parties (akin to the narrative arranged by Donald Trump) are just about licking their lips at the prospect. Earlier it was Br-exit followed closely by Cl-exit (Clinton-exit) and the world could just wake up for a rude shock with Gr-exit, Sp-exit and Fr-exit on the horizon with National Democratic Party, Respeto Party and National Front of these respective countries performing exceedingly and surprisingly well at the national hustings.

Corporate Acronym

So, I have crafted a 4 letter acronym which I feel satisfactorily encapsulates the four main pillars of surviving and thriving in the corporate world. These four pillars are, the wherewithal one might need to get by in any corporate moat and thus come out on the right side of the crocodile’s jaws, so to speak. These are O-D-I-N.

Odin in Scandinavian Mythology was termed as the God of Victory and Death and perhaps the acronym dutifully explains the fate of the person who purposefully or unintentionally chooses to employ the four pillars in their corporate life. So what does the acronym entail. Here goes.

O – Optimum. There is a very rustic saying in Hindi ‘jitna paisa utna kaam’ which when translated means ‘the amount of work should always be proportional to the amount of money being received’. In short, it means that one needs to exert oneself apropos to the amount of benefit. It is fruitless to push oneself to come up with a cracking strategy or a brilliant idea or even somewhat of an extraordinary method to function when the return on that effort is severely crimped.

D – Diplomacy. It is foolish to have your heart on your sleeve. It is imperative that colleagues, bosses or subordinates don’t really know the real you. The sure fire way to fall away from the bosses favour is to say what you mean and mean what you say. It always helps not to voice out the facts but embellish them with a thick layer of sugar-coat so as to twist and mutilate it beyond recognition. As it is, who wants to know and deal with the facts – they generally tend to be very unpleasant.

I – Insecurity. Near about all corporates thrive on this aspect. Most employees in most of the companies are made to feel insecure – intentionally or not. If not, then a soaking atmosphere is generally created that feeds on insecurity. Insecurity about the money one earns, the competence one has, the promotion that was long over due, the supposed quality of the subordinate, the supposed chance to super-cede the immediate boss, the clandestine closeness of the colleague to the immediate boss and so on and so forth. This helps the employer to have a tightly run carrot and stick policy, which is greased by the oil of insecurity. The employee thus is made to run like the hounds which gazelle through in races with the carrot always a couple of feet away from their extended jaws. The ‘lazy’ hound that is not willing to hustle up is summarily rapped on the knuckles with the proverbial stick and eventually shown the door.

N – Networking. And to the last part. I have a friend who does a dutiful job every month. He chooses to ring and check up on all his friends, ex-subordinates and ex-bosses in all the companies he has worked for. He checks up on how things are at their end and does a customary ‘I am so happy to have spoken to you’ thing. The golden method of ‘keeping in touch’. This keeping in touch helps people generally land up plum posts, plum assignments and definitely plum projects, never mind if everybody in the food chain knows that everything that is being discussed is absolute nothing and is but general rubbish banter.

Perhaps, there is too much of a negative slant on the corporate world that comes out of this post but then, have come across precious little positive with respect to the corporate world.

Act II – Money Legally Laundered – Distribution of Wealth

So this is a corollary to the earlier post ‘ Money Legally Laundered’.

So what will the Government of India do with the such a big booty that they have received due to the stashed black money that would be extinguished (in all probability we are looking at a figure of around 3 lac crores).

The best scenario that comes to mind and am quite sure more than a few of experts are also thinking on those lines – remit the amount directly to the bank accounts of the poor. This is truly the plank on which Modi had fought the General Elections in 2014 – the fact that there is so much of black money sloshing around in the system and if he comes to power, each Indian will have around 15,000 in his bank account. Well, now is the time to put one’s mouth where the money is, literally speaking.

Without doubt that was the reason why every poor person in the country was made to open Jan Dhan Accounts, perhaps this was the idea to crimp the rich off his black money and seed it to the Jan Dhan Accounts.

So as of 9th November 2016, there are near about 25,51,16,805 Jan Dhan Accounts that have been opened (according the Pradhan Mantri Jan Dhan Yojana website). Assuming that the Government gets a windfall of 3 lac crore (notwithstanding how does RBI transfer the amount to Government’s Statement of Accounts) it is highly likely that Narendra Modi is looking to seed each of these Jan Dhan Accounts with this windfall booty.

It is a great opportunity for him to walk his talk and put in some amount in to each of these Jan Dhan Accounts. Depending upon the amount that doesn’t come back to the system and needs to be extinguished, it is a goodish chance that a lion share of the amount, roughly around 2.5 lac crores, will be legally laundered and deposited in these accounts (round about 10,000 per account).

That is truly the levelling the playing field and being the consummate Robin Hood – pinching the rich and distributing in to the poor – the proverbial distribution of wealth, tried numerous times but hitherto never truly brought in to action ever.

Money Legally Laundered

November 8th, roughly around 8 pm, the Indian PM Narendra Modi is addressing the nation via the electronic media. The conversation is veering towards a general statement with the tone and manner of fighting corruption and the black money and bringing transparency in to the system. Most of us will admit that we have heard Mr. Modi speak about this and we are kind of used to the drift of the address – general statement, a bit of banality and nothing in specific. But then those statements were building up to the operative theme of his address – Rs. 500/Rs. 1,000 would cease to be legal tender from November 9th 12.00 am onwards. There were just 4 hours given to anybody who was a somebody to do what he can choose to.

These two currencies are estimated to make up about 85% of the entire cash in the system amounting to around 15 lac crores. By abolishing them, Mr. Modi had sucked out bulk of the cash from the system and the black marketeers or cash hoarders were left to fend for their ill-gotten wealth. It is estimated that in those 4 hours (so to speak) the amount of gold (jewellery or units) sold was much higher than what was sold on Dhanteras 2016. The ‘so to speak’ is essential since there would have been more than a few jewellers who would have sold their wares by back-dating the invoices. Now there have been numerous articles in the newspapers saying that this demonetisation is not going to help much since everybody who is anybody and has a stash of black money doesn’t necessarily keep it in paper. He invariably looks to hedge and pick up either real estate, foreign currency or gold. This might be true but then there is strong complementary benefit of demonetisation even though we are not able to get our hands on the supposed black money hoarders or their ‘invested’ stash. The biggest complementary benefit that would accrue to India is that the cash has come back home to issuer i.e. the money – black or white has come back to the system.

That is one hell of a complementary benefit for the action. Perhaps, the complementary benefit was the main reason why the action was taken in the first place. The Modi Government is well aware of the wherewithal of the black money hoarders and the ingenuity and ‘jugaad’ with which they would hanker to save their ill-gotten cash. So the main objective would never have been to net these black marketeers but to net the cash that is swishing around outside the formal system. So even if a black money hoarder bought gold on the 8th of November, the jeweller who chose to sell him will have to declare the money, since him not choosing to do so makes the cash he holds invalid and illegal and so is the case with a real estate developer. Let all and sundry accept the ‘illegal’ tender after the 8th of November, but it has to somewhere surface in the system in one form or the other or else it is just worthless piece of paper. It is a foregone conclusion that the Income Tax for the quarter till December is going to see a serious bump up.

Perhaps the black marketeer feels that he doesn’t want to buy gold and then look to carry the commodity on him (adding another dimension that will be discussed a bit later). He is confident enough to game the system and deposit the cash in the bank – either via money mules, mother/daughter deposit, extra sales in the on-going financial year or Jan Dhan Accounts – yet the complementary benefit holds true. The amount that was hitherto out of the formal system has come back to it. It is another issue whether the money was unaccounted for and the Government has the option of hounding the person and hauling him on live coals if he is detected. So, if we take a very conservative estimate of 20% being the unaccounted money (some experts estimate it to as big as 35-40%) of the total amount of 15 lac crores held in 500/1000 notes then we are looking at a figure of some where close to 3 lac crores. 3 lac crores or about more than 50% of the fiscal deficit of India for FY 2016-2017. There are a whole host of attendant benefits – the Government will have to borrow less thus not crowding out the private sector, has the wriggle room to spend more and to add to it there is the strong possibility of the banks reducing interest rates due to they being flush with money. Let us not even dwell on the fact that the liability side of RBI will be extinguished proportional to the amount of cash not returning back to the system and an equal amount could be transferred to the reserves and thus adding a hefty dividend to the Government. There are various opinions on the do’s and dont’s or the modality of this transaction and the most vociferous of that lot is a former FM who is supposedly trying to bring the negative view of other world central bankers if such a transaction were to take place. Anyways it is again a foregone conclusion that the Government of the day is going to use this bonanza to reduce it’s fiscal deficit – no two ways about it. There might be any form of balance sheet trickery or statement of accounts skull duggery that could be employed but the Government is going to take that money under its fold – let all economists or finance ministers or eminent personnel wail and cry foul as much as they want.

One more upshot of all this is and it is clear that the Government will not stop at this. There is more to follow. It is going to be a pincer attack on the black money – in all forms. There is going to be a crackdown on benami property transactions – it is already being touted as the next move by the PM. There is another aspect that is yet unfurled but could be in the offing. The Government in due course will come out with a notification that it will be mandatory to operate the bank lockers in the presence of a revenue officer or an IT person. There is a goodish chance that this will come out post 30th December when every body has had the chance of changing, depositing the old legal tender. Perhaps, a bit later around February/March 2017, when most of them have been lulled in to no action on the bank lockers front. All the black money that has been used to buy gold or has been bought up until now has to be accounted for somehow and that is the other dimension in purchasing gold that was spoken about earlier. A certain leeway on the amount of gold that a person holds would be allowed and for the rest, receipts and the income trail would be expected.

Thus, the black money crackdown is expected to come half circle i.e. cash, real estate and gold. The other half is of course the political funding that is hitherto unscrubbed and untouched. The PM did mention about state funding of elections but then it is to be seen if and ever such a move would take place.

‘De-seeding truly on the way’

apple3

This is just an addendum to the earlier post that I had put on Apple. Attended the keynote (digitally, of course, hell man I don’t have the money nor the wherewithal to be invited at such a bespoke event) for the launch of iPhone 7 and 7 plus on the 7th of September
Is there anything to write home about? Is there anything clearly and disruptively new about the phone? A loud and a resounding NO.
The general spiel is that it is ‘x times faster’ in processing, ‘x times sharper’ in camera resolution, ‘x times better’ in screen clarity, ‘x times longer’ in battery than the earlier iPhone. Well, good for the iPhone 7. Beyond changing a bit here and there, beyond re-gilding the bell and re-tuning the whistle, there is nothing of note in this one.
A few question then that really beg to be asked –
Why is a company which was not too long ago an innovative and disruptive thinker, reduced to mere delta changes in its product offering?
Going forward, is this what we are to expect from the Apple stable – perfunctory step up improvements in the existing product line.
Are there any path-breaking product offerings on the anvil that Apple is currently working on or even exploring?
If no to the above question, then is Apple sorely missing a completely blue-sky thinker along the lines of Steve Jobs, who has the ability to foresee tomorrow’s needs today and provide him/her with solutions hitherto not envisaged?
Only time will tell.